Introduction:

Blackjack is the most popular card game that is played in casinos and online in the world. In blackjack, each card has a point value (e.g. a King is 10 points, an Ace is 1 or 11 points, a 7 is 7 points etc...). If a player's cards score more points than the dealer's cards (it must be 21 points or below) they win and get money. Although blackjack is a simple game, there is some vocabulary and rules which are used that can make it a little confusing.

In this online exercise on blackjack vocabulary, we will look at and explain the English vocabulary which you need to understand to play a game of blackjack.

Click here to see our other exercises on Poker & Card Games Vocabulary.


Exercise: How to play blackjack

In the following conversation between two work colleagues (Peter and Juan), Peter is explaining to Juan how to play blackjack and its terminology in English.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Peter:'Are you looking forward to going to the casino tonight?'

Juan:'Yes, I like playing blackjack. The problem is that I've only ever been to a casino where they speak Spanish before. I know how to play the game, but I don't know what the vocabulary is when playing in English. For example, I know that the person who gives the players cards, is called the dealer. But is there a special name for when a dealer gives the players cards at the beginning of a game!'

Peter:'In card games, you don't say the dealer gives cards to the players, you say the dealer deals cards to the players. You know that in blackjack you aren't playing against the cards of the other players at the table, but against the house? Which means against the casino, the cards of the dealer who works for the casino.'

Juan:'Yeah, if there are three players with a better hand (which means better cards) than the dealer at the end of the game. Then all three players win.'

Peter:'That's right. Now, I'll explain what happens in a game of blackjack. The game starts when the players place or put their bet in front of themselves on the table. The bet is how many chips/money they want to gamble in that game of blackjack. In most games of blackjack there is a minimum amount of money/chips the players have to make if they want to play, this is called a minimum bet (e.g. $10). If you win, the casino will give you double the amount of money/chips you bet.

After the players have placed their bets, the dealer deals two cards to all the players and him/herself. All the cards to the players are dealt face up (so both the others players and the dealer can see them). The first dealer's card is dealt face up, but the dealer's second card is dealt face down and is only shown at the end of the game when it's the dealer turn. This second card is called a hole card, because none of the other players can see what it is.'

Juan:'What happens if I have 21 points in the first two cards?'

Peter:'If you have a hand which is 21 points with your first two cards (e.g. an Ace and a 10), it is a called a blackjack and you automatically win and the casino gives you double the amount you bet, plus an additional 50 per cent for having a blackjack (e.g. if your bet was $10, you will receive $25).'

Juan:'So, if I have a hand which is 19 points (e.g. a Jack and a 9). What do I say to not receive any more cards?'

Peter:'When it's your turn, you say stand and you won't get any more cards. But if your first two cards only had a value of 12 points (e.g. an 8 and a 4), you would want the dealer to deal you another card. To get another card, you say hit when it's your turn. If you were happy with this extra card and didn't want another, you would then say stand to the dealer.

But you have to be careful when you hit/receive another card because if the total number of points of your hand/cards is above 21, then you go bust and you are out of the game and lose the money you've bet.'

Juan:'If my first two cards are not good, is there a way I can leave the game and not lose the money that I bet when the game/hand started?'

Peter:'No, there isn't. But if after you have received your first two cards, you say surrender, you can leave the game and only lose half of the money you have bet. Also in blackjack there is a way to bet your chips/money on the dealer to win the game with a blackjack (21 points in two cards). If the dealer's card that is face up (you can see it) is an Ace, the dealer will ask if any of players want insurance, to bet their money that the dealer's other card that is face down is a card with a value of 10 points. If you take insurance and the dealer has a blackjack, you double the money you bet as insurance.'

Juan:'If my first two cards are very good (e.g. have a value of 19 or 20 points), is there a way to add more money/chips to my original bet.'

Peter:'There is only one way to increase your original bet when you already have your first two cards. You can double your bet. But if you do, the dealer has to deal/give you an extra card and after that card you can't hit/ask for any more cards. This is called double or doubling down.

Normally, players only double if their two cards have a total of 11 or 10 points (because there is a high chance/probability that the extra card will be worth 10 points). You wouldn't double if your two cards had 17 points, because there is a high chance you will go bust (go over 21 points) with the extra card.'

Juan:'I have seen players who start to play with one hand and separate the two cards and play in the game with two hands. How can they do that?'

Peter:'When a player's first two cards in their hand are of the same type (e.g. two aces, two queens, two 9s etc...), they have the option to separate the two cards and play two hands/sets of cards in the game. This is called to split. But when you do this, you have to bet on the new hand you have created (you double the amount of money you are betting in the game).'

Juan:'What if your hand draws with the dealer's hand? The number of points you have in your hand/cards is the same as the hand/cards of the dealer at the end of the game. Does the dealer win?'

Peter:'No, they don't. Neither of you win or lose. In blackjack, this is called a push and you get your original bet back.'

Juan:'I saw a film on television where there was a game of blackjack and they said something that a hand/set of cards was a hard 17 and another hand/set of cards was a soft 17. What's the difference?'

Peter:'In a game of blackjack, all the cards have a fixed value/number of points (e.g. a King is 10 points, a 7 is 7 points etc...) except for the Aces. The Aces in blackjack can be worth either 1 point or 11 points and the player can decide which. A soft 17 is where a hand/set of cards has total value of 17 points and includes an Ace which is being used with a value of 11 points (e.g. 'an Ace and a 5' is a soft 16), because the player can change the value of the Ace to 1 point if they want to.

If the hand/set of cards has a total of 17 points and doesn't include an Ace or if the Ace's value can only be 1 point (because the player's hand would bust/be over 21 points if the Ace was used with 11 points), it is called a hard 17 (e.g. 'a King and a 6' is a hard 16 and also 'an Ace, a 5 and a Jack' is a hard 16).'



Quiz: English vocabulary for blackjack

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. To ask the dealer for one or more extra cards, you say
         

Hit:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to hit'. In blackjack, this means to ask the dealer to deal/give you an extra card. A player would say 'hit' if after receiving/being dealt their first two cards, the total number of points of both cards (their hand) is low (e.g. 9 points or 12 points) and they need to have more points to have a good hand/set of cards and have a higher chance of beating the dealer's cards/hand.

There is no limit to how many times a player can say 'hit' when it's their turn in a game of blackjack. But if the total number of points of their cards/hand goes over 21, they go 'bust' and are out of the game.

If a player wants to 'hit' on their turn, they either say 'hit me' or signal to the dealer by tapping their fingers against the table.

In Spanish: "pedir/pedir carta".

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Hit:

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2. The cards that a player in a game of blackjack has to play with, is called their
         

Hand:
(noun) A 'hand' has two different meanings in blackjack (and in other card games too). The first meaning of 'hand' in blackjack is the set of cards that a player or dealer has to play with in a game. A player's 'hand' is the two cards that the dealer gives him or her at the beginning of the game, plus any more cards the player asks for in the game (e.g. when a player says 'hit' or when they say 'double'). At the end of a game, if the player's 'hand' is better than the dealer's 'hand', the player wins and doubles their money.

The second meaning of 'hand' in blackjack is one game of blackjack. It is common to hear people say 'wait until the hand has finished' or 'who won the last hand?'. This can be confusing for non-native speakers of English.

The only way to know which meaning of 'hand' is being used is from the context. This will help you decide whether they mean a 'player's cards' or a 'game'.

In Spanish: "mano/cartas".

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Hand:

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3. When playing blackjack in a casino, the players are playing against the 'dealer/casino', which is called the
         

House:
(noun) In a game of blackjack in either a casino or online, the players don't play against the other players (i.e. the hands or cards of the other players doesn't effect if they win or lose money) but against the cards/hand of the dealer (who works for the casino/company). In blackjack, the casino is called the 'house'. So, if a dealer's cards/hand is better than all the players' hands/set of cards, instead of saying 'the casino wins' the dealer would say 'the house wins' and sometimes 'the dealer wins'.

In Spanish: "casa/casino".

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House:

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4. When a player's or dealer's hand/set of cards contain an Ace which can be used with a value of either 1 point or 11 points, their hand is called
         

Soft:
(adjective) A 'soft' hand in blackjack is where the value of a hand/set of cards of the dealer or players is made by using an Ace with a value of 11 point. For example, a hand with an Ace and a 6 is called a 'soft 17'. It is called 'soft' because the value of of the Ace could also be 1 point if the player/dealer wanted it to be (and the hand would be worth 7 points instead of 17).

For people playing blackjack, the only reason why they need to know what a 'soft' hand is, is because normally in casino/online blackjack there is a rule written on the blackjack table that says 'the dealer must draw on soft 17'. This means if the dealer's hand is 17 points and it includes an Ace which is used with a value of 11 points, the dealer has to give/deal himself/herself at least one more card.

If a hand/set of cards doesn't include an Ace or if it does, but the Ace's value can only be 1 point, it is called a 'hard' or just the number of points is used. For example, a hand with a Queen and a 6 or a hand with an Ace, a 5 and a Jack is called 'hard' 16 or just 16.

In Spanish: "suave/blando".

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Soft:

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5. When a player's or dealer's hand/set of cards has a value of over 21 points, he/she goes
         

Bust:
(verb) 'bust' or 'busted' in blackjack means a player or dealer is out of the game and has lost the money they have gambled. A player or dealer goes 'bust' if the total value of their hand/set of cards is over 21 points. It is not possible to 'bust' on the first two cards, it can only happen when a player or dealer gets extra cards (the players do this by saying 'hit').

In a game, when a player goes 'bust', the dealer will say 'bust' or 'busted' and take away both the player's hand/cards and the chips/money they bet/gambled.

In Spanish: "pasado/pasarse".

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Bust:

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6. When a player or dealer has 21 points in their first two cards, they have a
         

Blackjack:
(noun) 'blackjack' or a 'natural' is the name used when a player or a dealer gets 21 points in their first two cards. A 'blackjack' or 'natural' is a combination of an Ace with a card that has a value of 10 points (e.g. a King, a Queen, a Jack or a number 10). This is the best hand/set of cards you can have in blackjack and beats any other hand (including having 21 points from 3 cards).

In most casinos and online games (but not in all), if a player's hand is a 'blackjack' and the dealer doesn't also have a 'blackjack', the player receives 50% more winnings than if they won by another hand/set of cards (e.g. 19 points, 18 points or 21 points from 3 cards). If a casino pays 50% extra winnings for a 'blackjack' is will be written on the blackjack table like this, 'Blackjack pays 3 to 2'. If it says on the blackjack table 'Blackjack pays even money', there is no extra winnings.

In Spanish: "blackjack".

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Blackjack:

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7. A verb which means to 'give' players cards in a card game, is
         

Deals:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to deal'. This verb has many different meanings, but in the context of playing card games, it means to 'give' players cards in cards games. For example, 'whose turn is it to deal now?'. The name of the person who 'deals' the cards to all the players in a card game is called the 'dealer' or 'croupier'.

In blackjack, the dealer also 'deals' himself/herself the first two cards. The first is 'dealt' face up (so everybody can see it), the second is 'dealt' face down so only the dealer can see it. At the end of the game, the dealer shows this second card to everybody and if the dealer needs another card he/she takes it (which is called 'draw' not 'deal' because the dealer takes one card for himself/herself) from the deck of cards.

In Spanish: "dar/repartir".

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Deals:

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8. When a player gambles money/chips at the beginning of a game of blackjack, it is called a
         

Bet:
(noun) This means the chips/money that the players 'gamble' at the start of a game. In blackjack, players have to place a 'bet' before any of the cards are dealt by the dealer. The 'bet' is normally put by the player in front of them in a marked small area on the table called the 'betting box' (there is 'betting box' for each player). Most blackjack games have 'minimum bets', the lowest amount of chips/money that a player can gamble or bet in a game of blackjack (this can be from $1 to $1,000 or even more).

In blackjack, normally you can only 'bet' once in a game. But there are other situations where you can gamble more money. When you 'double' (increase the quantity of your bet by 'double'), 'split' (if you have have two cards of the same type you can separate them to make two separate hands and play both) or you can pay 'insurance' (bet money that the dealer will get a blackjack (21 points in two cards)).'bet' can also be used as a verb.

In Spanish: "apuesta y apostar".

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Bet:

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9. When a player gambles/bets their money that the dealer will get 21 points in two cards, is called
         

Insurance:
(noun) In some casinos, they offer the players the option in a game of blackjack to bet/gamble on the dealer's hand/set of cards. This is called 'insurance' (if this option is offered, it will be written on the blackjack table like this 'Insurance pays 2 to 1'). 'insurance' is only offered to the players who are playing in the game (they have their own hand/set of cards) and only when the dealer's card that is face up (can be seen) is an 'Ace'.

If you place or bet 'insurance', you will only win if the dealer's second card that is face down has a value of 10 (so the dealer has 21 points in two cards, which is called a 'blackjack' or a 'natural'). You can only bet/gamble on the 'insurance' the same amount of money/chips that you did on your own hand/set of cards in the game, nothing more.

In Spanish: "seguro".

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Insurance:

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10. When a player's or dealer's hand/set of cards doesn't contain an Ace or has an Ace whose value can only be 1 point, their hand is called
         

Hard:
(adjective) A 'hard' hand in blackjack is where a player's or dealer's hand/set of cards doesn't include an Ace or if it does, the Ace's value can only be 1 point. In blackjack, an Ace can have two different values, 11 points or 1 point. It is the player's or dealer's decision what the value of the ace is in their hand. But if they have three or more cards with an Ace being one of them and if they would go 'bust' (go over 21 points and out of the game) if they use the Ace for 11 points, this is when a hand with an ace is called 'hard' (because the player/dealer can only use the Ace with a value of 1 point). For example, a hand with a Queen and a 6 or a hand with an Ace, a 5 and a Jack is called a 'hard 17'.

Normally in blackjack, they don't use 'hard', they just say the number. So, in the last example although the hand is a 'hard 17', dealers and players would just call it a '17'.

The opposite of a 'hard' hand is called a 'soft' hand and this is where the value of a hand/set of cards of the dealer/players is made by using an Ace with a value of 11 points. For example, a hand with an Ace and a 6 is called a 'soft 17'.

In Spanish: "duro".

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Hard:

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11. When a player increases the money/chips he/she has already gambled/bet by two times during a game blackjack, it is called
         

Double:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to double'. This is also called 'doubling down'. Basically, it means to 'double' (increase by 2) your original bet. This is really the only way in a game of blackjack a player can increase the amount of the original bet on their hand/set of cards. Players can 'double'/'double down' after they have been dealt their cards by the dealer. The only problem is that if a player says 'double'/'double down' they are automatically dealt one extra card (they can't receive any more cards after this) that is placed horizontal to the rest of the cards (to help the dealer remember that the player has 'doubled'/'doubled down'). So normally the only players who 'double'/'double down' are those whose first two cards have a total value of 9 or 10 points.

If a player wants to 'double' on their turn, they either say 'double' or 'double down' or signal to the dealer by pointing at the table with one finger and moving more chips next to their original bet chips.

In Spanish: "doblar".

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Double:

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12. When a player's hand/set of cards has the same number of points as the dealer's, it is called a
         

Push:
(noun) A 'push' means that at the end of a blackjack game, there is a draw between the value of a player's hand/set of cards and the dealer's hand/set of cards (both hands have the same total number of points). When a 'push' happens, the dealer will say 'push to the player' and the money/chips that the player has bet/gambled in the game are returned to the player (they don't lose them).

In Spanish: "empate".

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Push:

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13. When a player decides to separate his or her first two cards and play two separate hands/sets of cards in the game, is called
         

Split:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to split'. This when a player separates or 'splits' the first two cards they are dealt by the dealer and plays each card as a different hand (the player plays two hands in the game instead of the normal one hand).

A player only has the option to 'split' when their first two cards are of the same type (e.g. two Queens, two 6s etc...). The dealer will then separate the cards and deal the player another card on each of the cards. Because the player is now playing with two hands/sets of cards instead of one, the player has to add a bet to the second hand/set of cards he or she has started (for the same amount of chips/money of the their original bet in the game). In effect, the two hands/sets of cards that the player will now have are completely separate, so he could lose with one of the hands and win with the other.

If a player wants to 'split' on their turn, they either say 'split' or signal to the dealer by making a 'V' shape with two fingers and pointing them down at the table and moving more chips next to their original bet of chips.

In Spanish: "separar/dividir pares".

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Split:

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14. When a player doesn't want to receive an extra card or any more extra cards from the dealer, they say
         

Stand:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to stand'. This is basically what a player says to the dealer when they don't want to be dealt an extra card or another extra card to their hand/set of cards.

Normally, a player will say 'stand' to the dealer when it is their turn if they think they have a good hand/set of cards (e.g. with a total value of 18, 19, 20 or 21 points) or if they think there is a high risk of going 'bust' (going over 21 points and losing) if they 'hit'/ask for another card (e.g. when the total value of their hand is 16 or 17 points). In blackjack, some people say 'stay' or 'stick' with the same meaning.

If a player wants to 'stand' on their turn, they either say 'stand' or signal to the dealer by waving their hand.

In Spanish: "plantarse".

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Stand:

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15. When a player decides to leave a game after receiving his/her first two cards and loses half of their original bet, is called
         

Surrender:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to surrender'. In some blackjack games/tables the players have the option to leave the game after they have received and seen their first two cards. This is called to 'surrender'. Normally, this happens when a player thinks that his/her hand is bad and that the dealer has the possibility of having a very good hand (the dealer's visible card is an ace or a 10 point card).

When a player 'surrenders', they will lose half of the money/chips that he or she made in the original bet at the beginning of the game. A player can not 'surrender' after they have 'hit'/asked for another card. If you want to know if you can 'surrender' in a blackjack game, you should ask the dealer.

In Spanish: "rendirse".

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Surrender:

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Practice

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